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Georgia's legislative session ends with a protest

7:49 AM, Mar 30, 2012   |    comments
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ATLANTA -- Georgia's legislative session has ended for the year, but not without a few fireworks.

State lawmakers wrapped up the 40-day session Thursday with last-minute decisions on abortion, education, criminal justice and other issues.

It's the abortion bill that caused the ruckus.

Moments after lawmakers passed the measure, Democratic lawmakers, including many women, left the chambers and chanted in protest, standing side by side and holding caution tape.

The revised abortion bill would ban abortions after five months except when pregnancies threaten a mother's life or health. The new version includes a change sought by the Senate that says doctors can perform abortions after five months if they diagnose the fetus with a fatal defect.

The bill now goes to Gov. Nathan Deal for his signature.

Other legislation decided at the Gold Dome Thursday:

  • House lawmakers voted 110-56 to approve a bill that would require people applying for welfare to take drug tests before getting benefits. If approved by the governor, anyone who tests positive for drug use could not apply for welfare for one month and until they test clean.
  • Lawmakers approved compromise legislation that would reduce the number of weeks people can collect unemployment. Benefits would be reduced from 26 weeks to a sliding scale of between 14 and 20 weeks, depending on the unemployment rate. The bill now goes to the governor for his signature.
  • Politicians passed an overhaul of the criminal justice system, spearheaded by the governor himself.
  • Assisting in another person's suicide would become a felony punishable by up to a decade in prison under legislation that received final approval Thursday. The bill now goes to Gov. Deal for his signature.
  • Senate Bill 410 also passed. That legislation gives grades to schools based on how their schools perform. Schools would get scores up to 100.

The day was chaotic and long. Both chambers started their work in the morning and took vote after vote ahead of the midnight deadline to adjourn.

Lawmakers now leave the statehouse to campaign. They are all up for re-election.

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